Posted on March 31, 2016
These Colors, Don’t Ruin
Team USA goes incognito
The United States national soccer team put on a dismal performance in a recent 2-0 loss in Guatemala, during which they were unfocused and incohesive, and generally very much unlike themselves. You might not have even known that the USA was playing if the graphics on your screen hadn’t told you so, because the players were not wearing our national colors. Instead, they wore black jerseys with patches of blue and burgundy on the shoulders. If you didn’t know better, you’d have thought the Guatemalans were playing against some minuscule European nation, which started out as a buffer zone to prevent the people of Switzerland and Liechtenstein from throwing cheese at each other.
Four days later, when Team USA avenged that defeat with a 4-0 rout in Columbus, they wore their home whites. The sleeves, however, were almost a Carolina blue, far closer to the shade of blue on the Guatemalan flag than on our own. It’s as if being identifiably American has been deemed unfashionable, which it probably is.
It’s a quintessentially American quality that we’ve never worried about offending the effete sensibilities of the sniveling class. When a sports team is representing the United States, that fact should be immediately recognizable, even if others may find it obnoxious and corny. Team USA’s shorts should have red and white vertical stripes, just like the ones on Uncle Sam’s trousers. The jerseys ought to be the same shade as the blue field on our flag, with rows of bold white stars at the waist and shoulders. Across the chest should be a likeness of Benjamin Franklin, riding on the back of a gigantic skyrocket with the words, “We’re the A-freakin-mericans!” emblazoned on the side. Anyone who would be embarrassed to wear it doesn’t deserve to be on the team anyway.
It’s tempting to blame the studiously non-American duds on the apparel manufacturer, Nike, which famously makes ugly football uniforms for CEO Phil Knight’s alma mater, the University of Oregon, often deviating from that school’s team colors of green and yellow. The difference is that the U of O has little choice but to humor Knight, who is by far its greatest benefactor. If he thinks the Fighting Ducks would look snappy in brown with purple polka dots, then that’s what they’ll wear. The US Soccer Federation is under no such obligation. If it doesn’t want its players to dress like court jesters, Nike cannot force them to.
Besides, the soccer team is just picking up on a trend that’s been underway for years, most notably in hockey. At most international hockey tournaments, if you see a team in red, white and blue, it’s probably the Czech Republic, Russia, or even France. When the USA is the official visiting team, it will usually be wearing very dark, solid blue uniforms, with little or no red in them. The last Olympics in which Team USA wore traditionally American attire was at the 2002 Salt Lake City games. You know, the ones that were the subject of so much media harrumphing for their “jingoism” – which is what you call patriotism if you don’t like it. Ever since then, USA hockey has assumed a more apologetic profile.
For the past seven years, we’ve had a president who derides the concept of American exceptionalism, but he’s only a symptom of a sickness that had already taken hold. Those who think the language of our Constitution is still relevant are regarded today as simpletons. Citizenship and legal residence in our country are now treated as mere technicalities. Gradually, we’ve begun trading our good old American greenbacks in exchange for Eurofied, multicolored currency notes.
Perhaps the most potent accelerant in this trend toward post-Americanism is the fact that one of our two major political parties immersed itself in a five-year effort to make America lose a war, and yet was rewarded by the voters with almost monopolistic control of the federal government for two years afterward. Is it any wonder that our national teams see a marketing advantage in distancing themselves from their country?
American exceptionalism is still observed, except that it’s been turned into a negative. Every country may enforce its borders, except ours. Every country may celebrate the discovery of oil on its land, except ours. Every country’s soccer team may demonstrate pride in its homeland, except ours.
So go ahead and enjoy the rest of the World Cup qualifying matches involving the black, burgundy and blue. No three cheers for them, though. That would be “jingoistic.”
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press